Election of the President of Belarus 2010: Weekly Analytical Review (October 25-31)
1. Nomination of candidates for inclusion in the 6,346 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) finished on 31 October in a pattern similar to the Territorial Election Commission (TEC) nomination process. Oppositon parties have put forward only about 1,000 candidates out of 84,024, and local authorities fully controlled the process for nominating the remaining candidates (irrelevant of the way they were nominated).
2. HRD observers have not been provided the opportunity to observe the process of checking the authenticity of signatures submitted by candidates, despite repeated requests to TECs. Because TECs confirm to initiative groups only the number of submitted signature sheets, rather than the number of submitted signatures, the possibility remains for potential manipulation in the tabulation of submitted signatures and in determining the number of authentic signatures.
3. Of 238 complaints lodged with the assistance of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign’s lawyers from the beginning of the election campaign, only 9 have been satisfied (those related to decisions of local authorities about places where pickets for collecting signatures were prohibited). Central and territorial election commissions have rejected all complaints related to the violation of the electoral legislation by the initiative group of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
4. Eleven candidates submitted to the Territorial Election Commissions more than 100,000 signatures by the 31 October deadline and thus still have the chance to run for the presidency.
I. FORMATION OF PRECINCT ELECTION COMMISSIONS
In accordance with the Electoral Code (part 7, Article 34), Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) consisting of 5-19 members are formed by district and city (town) executive committees, and in cities divided into urban districts – by local administrations. According to the Calendar Plan of Organizational Arrangements for Preparing and Holding the Election of the President, nomination of PEC members and submission of relevant documents to the authorities, which form the commissions, shall take place not later than October 31, and formation of PECs – not later than November 3.
The right to nominate representatives into PECs is granted to political parties, public associations, labour collectives and citizens. An application for nominating a PEC member by citizens should be submitted by at least 10 eligible voters residing in the territory of the precinct.
Altogether, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC), 6,390 precinct election commissions will be formed, including 280 at stationary medical and healthcare facilities, 52 in military units and 44 in Belarus' diplomatic missions abroad.
The opposition political parties and movements have nominated about 1,000 candidates into PECs, some of which were nominated through collection of voters' signatures. In total, according to the CEC, 84,024 candidates have been nominated to 6,346 PECs located in the territory of Belarus.
The information reported by observers suggests that in some localities PEC membership had been approved well before the deadline for nominating candidates (October 31). For example, at the meeting on October 14 of observer Mikalai Petrushenka with Mikhail Gavrychenka, Director of the Kokhanava Housing and Communal Enterprise, the latter said that he would chair the precinct commission of polling station No. 24 in the town of Kokhanovo (Talochyn District, Vitsebsk Region). On October 21, at a sitting of the Orsha City Executive Committee on formation of precinct election commissions, Mikalai Lisouski, Chairman of the Committee, said that commissions had been formed for all the precincts.
In the city of Mahilyou, an instruction was placed on the ad board in the Lenin District Executive Committee for institutions and enterprises of the city prescribing where and how many candidates they should nominate to precinct election commissions.
II. COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES
October 29 was the deadline for collecting signatures in support of potential presidential candidates.
Right up until the deadline, observers registered violations by administrations of enterprises and institutions of the electoral legislation, according to which "no participation of administrations in collection during working hours and no coercion in the process of collecting signatures shall be admitted." Thus, in the dwelling settlement of Glusk (Mahilyou Region), A. Dzyadzyulya, a member of the initiative group of Lukashenka and deputy chief physician of the district hospital, was collecting signatures in support of the incumbent president at workplaces during working hours. The CEOs of the enterprise "Mastouskaya Raiselgastekhnika" (Hrodna Region) also collected signatures for nominating Alyaksandr Lukashenka during work hours, and all the necessary data on the workers had been put on signature lists well in advance.
Observers have noted certain cases of pressure on members of initiative groups in connection with delivery of collected signatures. According to Anatol Yurevich, coordinator of the initiative group of Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu for Slutsk and Slutsk District (Minsk Region), one initiative group member refused to deliver the signature lists filled in by him to the Slutsk District Election Commission because of the pressure exerted on him by the principal of the secondary school where he works as a teacher. According to Yaraslau Gryshchenya, coordinator of the initiative groups of Mikalai Statkevich and Dzmitry Uss in Baranavichy, on October 29 he was phoned by an unknown person who threatened that he should not deliver the collected signatures if he wanted to live peacefully in the country.
The procedure of accepting signature lists by the TECs is regulated by recommendations of the CEC, according to which the logbook of incoming documents shall fix only the number of subscription lists, not the number of signatures in them: "The count of the number of delivered signature lists shall be made by a member of the commission prior to making an entry into the logbook of incoming documents. Issuing of certificates about the receipt of signature lists is not prescribed by the Electoral Code." Thus, the existing procedures do not exclude possibilities to manipulate the number of delivered signatures.
Observers also noted cases of refusal by TECs to accept lists with signatures, which had been collected by persons other than those who were handing them over. For example, the Svislach District TEC (Hrodna Region) refused to accept signatures in support of nomination of Ryhor Kastusyeu from Anatol Valyuk, a member of his initiative group, because he had brought signatures collected by others, as well as those collected by him. Only after Valyuk's appeal to the CEC did the commission chair ask him to bring signatures and accept them.
Within ten days after the end of signature collection, the TECs will conduct verification of authenticity. In this regard, the CEC Secretary Mikalai Lazavik said: "Some of the potential candidates have understood in their own way the liberal approach of the CEC to the process of collecting signatures. It is likely that in order to reach the required 100,000 signatures, some of them made use of different databases on the population of Belarus to fill in their subscription lists."
The campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" believes that the signature verification process should be conducted as transparently as possible, in the presence of interested candidates, their confidants and observers. However, almost everywhere TECs have rejected observers' requests to monitor the process of signature verification, saying that the possibility of observing signature verification is not stipulated by the Electoral Code. For example, Vasil Barannik, chairman of the Barysau TEC, motivated his refusal to observers to be present at verification of signatures as follows: "Article 13 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus does not stipulate the right of observers to monitor the procedure of verification of signatures in subscription lists, handed over by members of initiative groups." The TEC of the Lenin District of Hrodna and the TEC of the Hrodna District refused to admit observers on the ground that "the participation of observers in verification of authenticity of signatures by members of the district commission is not prescribed by the legislation." The campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" believes that by their answers TECs introduce additional restrictions on observers' rights as compared with the exhaustive list of such restrictions contained in Article 13 of the Electoral Code.
Eleven persons – Ryhor Kastusyou, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Ales Mikhalevich, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, Uladzimir Pravalski, Yaraslau Ramanchuk, Vital Rimasheuski, Andrei Sannikau, Mikalai Statkevich, Dzmitri Uss and Viktar Tsyareshchanka – delivered more than 100,000 signatures to respective territorial election commissions (TECs). Three candidates – Syarhey Gaidukevich, Yury Glushakou and Syarhey Ryzhou – filed their official applications on their refusal to further participate in elections. Another three candidates – Pyotr Barysau, Syarhey Ivanou and Ivan Kulikou – failed to deliver any signatures to TECs.
III. APPLICATIONS AND COMPLAINTS RELATING TO THE ELECTION
Election commissions of various levels and other state bodies continue receiving complaints from citizens and other subjects of the election process (political parties and members of initiative groups). From the start of the campaign, only with the help of lawyers of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections," a total of 238 complaints were submitted; of them, as of October 31, only 9 (3.8 percent) were satisfied, which dealt with the decisions of local executive committees on the places forbidden for pickets to collect signatures.
Most of the complaints had to do with violations of the electoral legislation by members of the initiative group of Lukashenka, participation of administrations of state organizations in collecting signatures in his support and involvement of persons who are not members of the initiative group in collecting signatures for Lukashenka. As before, the CEC and TECs have not recognized any violations in the actions of Lukashenka's initiative group.
On October 27, 2010, the CEC considered the complaint lodged by Valyantsin Stefanovich, based on the publication on the "European Radio for Belarus" website of the schedule compiled and distributed among educational institutions of the Lenin District of Minsk for participation in the picket for collecting signatures in support of Lukashenka. The schedule contained the surname of Anzhela Naskova, head of the division for ideological and educational work of the Department for Education of the Administration of the Lenin District of Minsk. The website also posted an interview with Naskova, in which she confirmed that she had brought the document to the knowledge of the educational institutions subordinated to the Department. According to her statement, she had developed the document as directed by Lukashenka's election headquarters.
According to the CEC, these facts indicate the abuse of service powers by Naskova; in this context the CEC addressed the chair of the administration of the Lenin District of Minsk, asking him to consider disciplinary action against her. At the same time, the CEC found no violation of Article 61 of the Electoral Code in this situation, as "A. Naskova did not manage the educational institutions listed in the schedule, and in any case she is on vacation, while the schedule listed only members of the initiative group among those who held the picket on collecting signatures." Thus, the CEC found no grounds to issue a warning to the initiative group of Lukashenka.
In addition, the Minsk City Election Commission found no violations of the Electoral Code in considering the complaint lodged by Mikita Krasnou and Vyachaslau Dyyanau on the fact of collecting signatures in support of Lukashenka by persons who were not members of his initiative group during the pickets held on October 6 near the State Department Store (GUM) and "Furniture House" in Kharuzhaj Street in Minsk. During the consideration of the complaint it was established that the signature collection took place, and this was not denied by the members of the initiative group Khmyl and Atamanau, who "were in charge" of these pickets. However, according to their stories, the voters’ data was entered into signature lists by strangers "at the request of voters themselves." The Minsk City Election Commission decided to notify the Minsk District Commissions, which will verify the signatures collected by Khmyl and Atamanau, of the outcome of the complaint’s consideration. The CEC was also notified of the outcome of the consideration, and CEC Secretary Mikalai Lazavik said: "A helper of a member of the initiative group may fill in a subscription list and put one's surname, name and patronymic, and passport data into the list."
Thus, the CEC Secretary has brought in a new, non-sanctioned notion of "a helper of a member of the initiative group" into the electoral procedure, and vested such a person with some powers contrary to the legislation. Such interpretation is contrary to the Electoral Code, which establishes a mandatory requirement for collecting signatures for nomination of presidential candidates (MPs) only by members of initiative groups. The Electoral Code not only provides for no possibilities to delegate the power of a member of the initiative group to collect signatures to any third person, but also obliges the election commission to invalidate all the signatures on the subscription list if they were collected by someone other than a member of the initiative group (Electoral Code Article 16.8).
The most indicative in terms of the attitude of election commissions to complaints against the actions of the initiative group of Lukashenka is the CEC's response to the complaint lodged by Nyaklyaeu on October 25. The complaint listed numerous facts of collection of signatures by people who were not members of the initiative group of Lukashenka and collection of signatures in the places where it is prohibited by the legislation. The CEC believes that the information set forth in the complaint, "either is of a general nature and it is impossible to verify it, or was not confirmed in the course of the conducted checks."
The aim of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" is observation of the election of the President of the Republic of Belarus, assessment of the electoral process from the viewpoint of Belarusian electoral legislation and international standards of free and democratic elections, and keeping the Belarusian public and international community duly informed about our conclusions. The campaign is independent and politically non-engaged. More information about the campaign may be found in the websites of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" (http://spring96.org) and Belarusian Helsinki Committee (http://www.belhelcom.org).
 Methodological Recommendations. Organizational-legal issues of preparing and holding the presidential election in the Republic of Belarus in 2010 (Statement of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus for Elections and National Referendums No. 43 of September 15, 2010).